Neighborhood News






Water Reclamation Plant - Expansion Proposal Update

On Monday, December 1, 2014 St. Petersburg City Staff briefed Bayway Associations, residents and enterprises on the plans for the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility (SWWRF). More than 75 residents were present to hear the City's Public Works Administrator, Mr. Michael Connors, and his colleagues explain what was behind the decision to close the Downtown Albert Whitted Airport treatment plant (AWWRF), and to move much of the City's solids and liquid treatment to the SWWRF.

Highlights of the Briefing included these points:

Background and New Tank at SWWRF

  • The Albert Whitted Facility is the City's oldest (1920s) and most expensive to operate and maintain. There is no room left at AWWRF to expand.
  • The SWWRF was built in the 1950s when the Bayway was largely not populated. Eckerd College was founded later, in the 1960s.
  • The City's policy is to put no treated water into Tampa Bay, Boca Ciega Bay or other waterways. All St. Pete effluent is treated and then re-purposed for other uses: irrigation, fertilizer, etc.
  • Closing Albert Whitted will have a significant economic benefit to all St. Pete residents by removing millions of dollars annually from the City's sewage treatment budget, and likewise from our water bills!
  • The City will go from four treatment plants (-staffed 24/7) to three starting next year, hence the financial savings. All the water treatment installations at AWWRF will be replaced by a single pump and gravity feed to the SWWRF, part of the savings to the City budget.
  • The 15 million gallon-a-day tank to be built at SWWRF has been mandated by the State's Dept. of Environmental Protection (FDEP.) It represents one day's worth of effluent collection, in case it must be held and retreated to meet water quality standards.
  • The new 50 foot high, 15 MGD tank will be used for reclaimed water (- used for landscape irrigation sprinklers) only. The tank is open-top, but will smell no worse than the water currently being sprinkled onto landscaping.
  • The $3 million tank will be used for only a few days a year, when water must be retreated. The City Staff laments the expenditure, but must comply with the FDEP mandate.
  • The City plans to surround the entire SWWRF with dense stands of landscaping to obscure  the plant, including the new tank. The City has a $300,000 grant in hand to do this, and to replace failed existing landscaping.
  • The re-routing of effluent to SWWRF will result in some increased truck (semi's with canvas tops) traffic in and out of the SWWRF.
  • Pre-AWWRF diversion, the SWWRF had two trucks a day come off the Interstate into SWWRF to hall away solids for fertilizer use. After full-scale diversion of AWWRF to SWWRF next year, that will increase by seven tractor-trailer loads a day.
  • The SWWRF is now operating at less than half capacity. The City's changes will bring SWWRF usage up to ~80% capacity by 2030, but no higher due to limits on St. Pete new development resulting from minimal land availability.

Methane Gas Generation

  • Currently, the natural methane gas (CNG) generated by effluent treatment is burned off, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • The City Staff proposes to capture methane at SWWRF, and to process it to commercial gas quality (CNG.)
  • Potential uses of the resulting product include refueling of methane powered city vehicles, sale to industrial CNG users, generation of electrical energy.
  • Gas use plans are still being discussed. Mayor Kriseman has prohibited a City Staff idea of piping gas through a pipeline, up 34th Street to a truck refueling station.
  • Odor control of effluent processing has been a major focus ($$ millions) of SWWRF plant upgrades for about a dozen years. The audience agreed that odors emanating from the plant have significantly decreased over that period.
  • As part of the proposed gas generation facility, the City Staff will request funding for $9.2 million in odor abatement processing at SWWRF. The City Staff is quite confident that the funding will be approved.
  • When CNG is developed at SWWRF, per current plans it will be trucked out to refueling facilities on City property in the north end of the City.
  • The City Staff would like to find an acceptable way to build a pipeline-fed gas refueling facility near SWWRF, but hasn't come up with an idea that will pass the City approval process.

Straw Poll

At the end of the meeting, about a dozen Association Board members from the Alliance for Bayway Communities (ABC) member Associations gathered together to compare reactions to the City's briefing, and to provide guidance to the ABC on how to react to the plans presented. There was unanimous agreement among the group that the Alliance for Bayway Communities should support the City's plans.

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